Whispers of the Old Gods is here, and with it a swarm of C'thun decks. I played my own C'thun deck yesterday and went up against a bunch of others, and now I have reasonable idea of how that matchup goes. My initial impressions of building C'thun decks weren't quite on, so today I am going to talk a bit about how that works.
C'thun decks are based around four things. First is C'thun itself. Second is cards like Beckoner of Evil that make C'thun bigger but which are weak on their own. Third is cards like Dark Arrakoa, which buffs C'thun but is totally fine on its own and could easily see play without any C'thun interaction. Lastly we have things like Klaxxi Amber-Weaver, which can only be played in C'thun decks but which is very overpowered in that situation.
The thing about C'thun is that you only have one of it. If you draw it and it is buffed up to 20/20 or something like that you just win immediately, that is obvious. The question becomes, what happens when a C'thun deck simply doesn't draw C'thun? How bad is it for them, and can they still win?
It turns out that not drawing C'thun isn't that bad, and C'thun decks can still easily win games just off of cards like the Klaxxi above. I don't know what C'thun decks will end up looking like, but I built one that seems quite effective and I figured I would examine the cards in it to see how good they are overall compared to other options.
I have 4 cards that buff C'thun but are good enough to use on their own. (Dark Arakkoa, Disciple of C'thun) Those I don't count. I have 8 cards that are somewhat weak, and are a full stat point below what they should be, but they are in there to buff C'thun. (Crazed Worshipper, C'thun's Chosen, Beckoner of Evil, and Twilight Elder.) That gives the deck -8 stats. Then I have 3 cards that are really overpowered, each of which is 4 stat points *over* budget. (Emperor Vek'lor, Klaxxi Amber-Weaver) However, these cards occasionally end up being played without their special buff, so I can't quite count them for the full amount. I think counting them as 3 points over budget is reasonable. That gives the deck +9 stats.
(I am aware that counting the Disciple as .5 stats under budget is reasonable, and the same could potentially be argued of Beckoner and Elder. These sort of cancel out though.)
So when we consider the deck without C'thun we see that it has minions missing roughly 8 stat points and minions gaining roughly 9 stat points because of C'thun mechanics. That means that even if you ignore C'thun, the deck is perfectly fine on its own. You can definitely take this collection of minions and a bunch of other reasonable cards and beat people.
But when you consider that the deck gets to play a 10 cost monster that is a ~20/20 and does ~20 damage to the enemy board when it enters play, things get a wee bit nuts. The deck isn't a pile of weak garbage hoping to hold it together until C'thun saves the day. It is a collection of minions that overall are fine, but which definitely swing from a bit underpowered to seriously overpowered. That collection of fine just has a hell of a kick to it at the end.
My guesses about C'thun decks ahead of time turned out to be wrong. I thought that Warlock would be the C'thun deck of choice, and that definitely isn't true because Warlock didn't get an overpowered C'thun card, and that hurts them pretty badly. Also C'thun decks are far less reliant on card draw than I had thought, and they run enough moderately priced minions that drawing cards as a Warlock isn't a particularly strong strategy. You just don't have the time or the health to do that. Fundamentally C'thun decks are far less focused on C'thun then I had guessed. Which is kind of a funny thing, when you think about it.
I do think that the C'thun ramp deck is going to be the new default for Druid. It has five big taunts, which is fantastic against any sort of aggro strategy, and tons of dumb minions it is happy to trade into other aggressive minions. It also gets to C'thun faster than any other class due to ramp mechanics so in a C'thun vs. C'thun battle you get to slam down first and win. I am quite sure this is deliberate as Blizzard nerfed the snot out of Druid Classic cards and now they get a very different path to victory. Instead of winning with combo beatdown on turn 9 from an empty board, they get to win with C'thun on turn 10 from an empty board instead. ;)